The house where four generations of the Carroll family lived serves today as a center of history education programs in Acadia. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Carroll Homestead offers glimpse back in time

When she was a child, Tremont resident Joan Jordan Grant learned a song to remember the names of her grandmother Sarah Teney Carroll’s nine siblings and one half brother.

“Ene and Nell and Gert and Fan,” the song goes, “John and Kate and Alice, Sadie and Grace, Lloyd and Ma, Pa and Ana Beatrice.”

The 10 children of Jacob and Rebecca Carroll were born between 1871 and 1887 in a Southwest Harbor house that’s now part of Acadia National Park and hosts history education programs. They were the second generation to be born and raised there. Jacob was the only son of John Carroll, an Irish immigrant who built the house in 1825, and his wife, Rachel.

A quilt made by family members for Rebecca Carroll as a Christmas gift, 1889. A skilled seamstress, Rebecca raised her 10 children in the house that’s now part of Acadia National Park. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

A quilt made by family members for Rebecca Carroll as a Christmas gift, 1889. A skilled seamstress, Rebecca raised her 10 children in the house that’s now part of Acadia National Park.

Grant is one of a group of volunteer educators at the site working to help school groups and summer visitors step back in time and learn about life in 19th-century rural Maine through one family’s story.

“They had to put Ma and Pa in there to make the line come out,” Grant said of the children’s rhyme. “Ene” in the song is Enoch Lurvey, Rebecca’s only child with her first husband, who died in a shipwreck.

Jacob Carroll also was a ship captain, but after his marriage to Rebecca at age 40, he mostly switched to the somewhat less treacherous coasting trade in lumber, fish, granite and lobsters. He had first gone to sea at age 14 and had sailed around the world.

“Sadie in the song was the seventh child, Sarah was her full name,” Grant said. “She was my grandmother, born 1881.”

While the previous generation at the Mountain House made much of the fabric for their own clothes from wool and flax, Rebecca Carroll had some special fabric available from her husband’s career at sea. She also was a very skilled seamstress.

When she became a grandmother, Rebecca decided to make dolls for her grandchildren. Grant has the one made for her mother, Evelyn, when she was born in 1911. Some of the school groups visiting the Carroll Homestead in 2011 participated in 100th-birthday celebrations for the doll, whose name is Lydia.

“All the features are hand-sewn,” she said, “She still has her original bloomers and petticoats with crocheted edges, flannel to keep her warm and silk stockings.”

Lydia just recently got a new dress made after Rebecca’s original pattern, her first in 106 years. Grant’s own granddaughter is named Lydia in honor of the family history represented by the doll.

After the Carroll family moved into the village of Southwest Harbor in 1917 to be closer to school and work, the house was used for picnics and parties, and sometimes rented out. Scores of Carroll family members and descendents still live on MDI. They gather for reunions from time to time, along with other relatives who have moved away.

Family members worked to keep up the homestead, but concluded in 1982 that transferring it to Acadia National Park would be a fitting way to preserve the Carroll legacy.

This summer, the Carroll Homestead will be staffed by rangers and volunteers and open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in July and August. The grounds are always open for the public to explore.

“At the open houses, people can learn about family life in the 1800s, try out some pioneer toys and games, use a crosscut saw, find the remains of a barn, an outhouse and a quarry, and try on some old timey clothing,” Acadia Education Coordinator Cynthia Ocel said.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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